The mini-SUV market has been hotting up over the past couple of years.

It has culminated with the recent releases of the Mazda CX-3 and the French entry, the Renault Captur. The Captur finds itself under fire from all corners, with cars from Ford, Holden, Honda and Nissan also in the mix.

The Captur is late to the party, with a long delay due to domestic demand. Renault Australia couldn't get its hands on it quickly enough. Neither could we.

Value

The Captur range runs from the $22,990 Expression manual (with the 990cc turbo-petrol), via the $25,990 Expression auto. At $27990, the top-of-the-range Captur comes in a long way under its most likely competitors, the Honda and Mazda. In fact, the price is almost line-ball with the Korean-built turbo-engined Holden Trax. Part of the reason it's cheaper is that it carries a much simpler specification.

As well as the larger 1.2-litre turbo from the Clio, the Dynamique gets 17-inch alloys, four speaker stereo, climate control, keyless entry and start, rear parking sensors, auto wipers and headlights, satnav, leather steering wheel and gear knob, cruise control and speed limiter, two-tone paint, power mirrors with folding function and a spoiler.

There's a long range of options, which include various interior packs, an upgraded satnav with R-Link, upgraded stereo, leather trim, decal packs and coloured alloys. You can also specify zip-off, washable seat covers, what a great idea.

Design

Renault has rediscovered style in the last couple of years with the Clio and Twingo so it's no surprise the Captur looks the business. It's a chunky little thing, with a lot of Clio in it, meaning plenty of French cheek.

The distinctive two-tone colour scheme of the Captur is certainly eye-catching and depending on the colour combo either cool or a bit naff, so choosing wisely is critical.

The Dynamique is distinguished by chrome blades on the doors, chromed foglight surrounds and daytime running lights. The bonnet is very high giving it a bit of bluff and room for a big grille with a massive Renault diamond.

It's just different enough from the Clio to be considered a different car and not just look like a jacked-up hatchback.

Inside is standard Clio which brings with it an excellent dash layout, the easy to use and reach multimedia screen and a simple but effective design.

It also brings some dodgy plastics, silly little drink holders in the front and a gear selector that bites if you don't use it right.

Extra wacky points should be awarded for door pockets

The driving position is excellent, with a good view in all directions, comfortable seats and an adjustable steering position that makes it easy to get comfortable.

Rear space is not bad at all given the titchy proportions, a high seat allowing you to slot your legs between the squab and the seatback in front.

Extra wacky points should be awarded for door pockets - three stretchy straps that can be twanged to play the bass line of "Another One Bites the Dust".

The 377-litre boot has a false floor for either hiding stuff or layering your luggage.

Safety

Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, brake assist and force distribution.

The Captur scored five ANCAP stars.

Features

Run through a decent seven-inch touchscreen, the four-speaker stereo does struggle to fill the cabin. Having said that, the sound is perfectly reasonable and with USB and Bluetooth, you can run your phone with minimum fuss.

The satnav is not exactly the last word in resolution or accuracy, but will get you to where you want to go with minimum fuss and is easy to set up.

Engine / Transmission

The 1.2-litre turbo engine is good for 88kW and 190Nm. The 10.9 second walk to 100km/h is hardly going to set the world on fire, but with a kerb weight of 1215kg and stop-start, the combined fuel figure (on 95 RON, mind) is a claimed 5.4L/100km. We got just over 7.0L/100km.

The Captur is a hoot to drive

Driving the front wheels only, the six-speed dual-clutch auto is another carry-over from the Clio and continues to show the way to more illustrious German companies. The DCT impresses with smooth shifts and no need for sport modes - it just works it out from the way you're driving.

Driving

For a lofty car, the Captur is a hoot to drive. The six-speed transmission makes the most of the engine's outputs and a quick, fun steering rack means there's a good turn-in and even some decent feel from the electric assistance.

Front seat passengers should enjoy the ride but rear seat passengers may not be so complimentary. It's a little hard back there, and a bit fidgety. In traffic it doesn't really matter but if you're bashing around rough streets, it will elicit protests.

On the freeway, everything settles down and the Captur is surprisingly quiet. There's some small amount of drone from the engine and transmission, the three-cylinder turbo barely registering in the cabin. Some noise comes from the tyres, but that is certainly bearable.